By Emil Danielyan
There have been more unconfirmed reports that Greece’s OTE telecommunications giant has decided to sell its 90 percent stake in the ArmenTel monopoly. OTE’s managing director was quoted by a Greek newspaper on Friday as telling The Wall Street Journal that his company is now looking for another foreign buyer for the Armenian national operator.
The official, Lefteris Antonakopoulos, was not reported to give any motives for the decision, saying only that OTE also intends to give up its minority share in a Ukrainian telecom firm.
There have been several press reports over the last several months about OTE plans to put ArmenTel up for sale. Reuters news agency said last month that the controversial $142.5 million takeover of Armenia’s telecom monopoly in 1998 has not lived up to the Greeks’ expectations. The latter claim to have invested more than $130 million in the Armenian telecom sector.
The reports were until now denied by the Armenian government and the ArmenTel management in Yerevan. Transport and Communications Minister Andranik Manukian said recently that the government has not received such information from Greek side.
Manukian and other Armenian officials, reflecting the dominant public mood, have repeatedly voiced their disappointment with OTE’s operations in Armenia, accusing the company of failing to meet its investment commitments and abusing its legal monopoly on telecom services. They have signaled their intention to try to strip ArmenTel of its exclusive rights.
The discontent with ArmenTel has centered in recent months on the worsened quality of its mobile phone connection and the high costs of its Internet services.